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New Lease

Mary Burich | January 9, 2018

People | Pride of the Jersey

Inspired and inspiring, Michael Pittman shares his story

Shortly after Michael Pittman joined the team at the Austin (Minn.) Plant of Hormel Foods, he noticed someone wearing a company-branded jersey, the outward sign of the Pride of the Jersey campaign. He resolved then and there to work toward it.

Michael Pittman

“I wanted to wear that jersey one day,” he says.

Though all Hormel Foods workers are eligible for the Pride of the Jersey award, it most often goes to those who have decades of service and thus, a longstanding reputation for – and countless examples of – embodying the company’s Cultural Beliefs.

The fact that Mike realized his dream little more than a year after joining Hormel Foods is extraordinary and so is Mike. He talks openly about his life, believing “it’s a promising story.”

Joining Hormel Foods

“Let me go back to the beginning,” he says. “I was incarcerated on a DWI charge.”

The event served as a wakeup call to Mike, and he set about the hard job of changing his life. For starters, he hasn’t had a drink in six years.

“When I came home, I began working with my landlord,” he says. Mike is “good with his hands” and was able to help with repairs and odd jobs. He was grateful for the work. At the same time, he knew he wanted more.

Hormel Foods was the first major employer to welcome him into the fold after his conviction. It’s proven itself a smart move.

“If I had to sum up Mike in a couple of words, it would be ‘rock solid,’ says Jim Akemann, his supervisor. “He has the best attitude of anyone I can think of.”

I wanted to wear that jersey one day.

Michael Pittman

Mike demonstrated early on his willingness to take charge of his life. He grew up on the South Side of Chicago, in a challenging neighborhood.

“I took my son to preschool one day. There was a shooting; bullets were hitting the school doors. I said enough was enough,” he says.

So, Mike put his family and their belongings in his car and drove to Minnesota in search of a better life. He’s been there ever since.

Determination is a quality Jim sees playing out at work every day. A machine operator, Mike is well on his way to becoming the go-to person on second shift. “He’s very driven and a quick learner. He’s close to becoming an expert in his current position.”

Family Man

Life away from the job is equally full. He’s a grandfather, and his three children are thriving. One of his sons is a DJ all over the world. Meanwhile, his daughter and other son are in college. In addition, he has a new fiancé. “She’s my inspiration and my drive,” he says. “Her name is Alyssa Kranz, my love.”

Mike and Alyssa are busy remodeling a home. When time allows, he heads to the kitchen to work some magic there. He’s a cooking fanatic.

And just when he thought nothing could be better, he got to pull the company jersey over his head, a rare honor for a rare person.

“I was more than surprised. I was shocked,” he says.